The first day of grand jury deliberations in the Sean Bell shooting case ended without a verdict, but a new witness may have emerged.
A janitor who went to a Queens police station house yesterday claims to have seen police shooting of three unarmed black men - and says he saw a "fourth man. The NYPD had always claimed there was a fourth person with a gun that made Bell and his friends "targets" of the police. Detectives' Endowment Association president Michael Palladino said that the witness allegedly saw a black man carrying a gun near the scene; the man also reportedly fired at the police.
Apparently the police had spoken to the witness after the shooting, but he claimed he saw nothing. The man's lawyer said the witness was too scared to come forward earlier; he told cops his "Christian conscience" told him to come forward. One question we have - and we're sure the Queens DA and NYPD are looking at this - were any shell casings from guns not belonging to the police found at the scene? The Queens DA's office said, "We are aware of the alleged eyewitness and have no comment at this time." Palladino said Queens DA Richard Brown "is reluctant to put him before the grand jury, and I just find that totally unacceptable. It defies logic." The NYPD did not comment either.
The Reverend Al Sharpton held a press conference yesterday to question the witness's credibility. Bell's fiancee Nicole Paultre-Bell and his friend, Joseph Guzman, who was wounded in the gunfire, were present. Sharpton said, "The whole process is suspect to me. We'll just see."
The grand jury will deliberate today; a verdict could come today or in the next few days.
Photograph of Sharpton, with Guzman at left and Paultre-Bell on the right, by Shiho Fukada/AP